Redesigning the World for a User-Friendly Future

In late June, GreenBiz hosted VERGE, an intriguing roundtable discussion among top executives about how vehicles, information, buildings, and energy all fit together and what the convergence of these technologies might mean for the future of business and society.

The meeting highlighted some very cool innovations waiting to be unleashed, and also exposed a major opportunity: Improving how we enable people in a user-friendly manner to help create the kind of future VERGE technologies enable.

Amidst the brilliance in the room, it became clear to me that at the current pace technology is advancing, it is only a matter of time before we have access to all the data and gadgets we need to address our future energy challenges.

A full list of the transformative technologies has been chronicled earlier on GreenBiz.com. My personal favorite is the platooning concept that will allow vehicles to drive themselves on freeways in close proximity to each other at fast speeds, thereby curbing their carbon footprint, all while you relax and watch DVDs of the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series in 2011.

An optimistic vision, yes, but even the most promising innovative technologies will not reach their full energy-saving and carbon-reducing potentials unless we create a culture that is dedicated to meaningful change. In order to do that, we must overcome one key obstacle: people.

Steve Murphy, a Director from Blach Construction, conveyed to the VERGE group that most facilities managers, who are critical for leading the charge on energy savings, are completely overwhelmed with data and can often be resistant to change. Building managers are just one part of the equation. Bill Glover, COO from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in Colorado, showcased the company's extraordinary new net zero facility in Golden, Colorado. But even with cutting-edge data and technology at his disposal, Bill said he still "needed everyone in the building to be thinking about energy every day."

That is a big ask. We know people are not thinking about energy conservation 24 /7 -- if at all.

Next page: Why Human Behavior is our Biggest Challenge